Canadian biodiesel plant to produce clean fuel from flax

Canadian biodiesel plant to produce clean fuel from flax

A tiny Canadian startup company that is preparing to open a biodiesel plant in Toronto this spring says it will produce clean fuel, animal feed and human food all from the modest flax seed.

Privately held Energy Innovation Corp., which has also developed a way to produce biofuel from used coffee grounds, said its production process creates multiple revenue streams, but no waste.

“The demand is actually 10 times more than we think we’ll be able to supply over the next 16 to 18 months,” said the company’s 27-year-old chief executive, Jon Dwyer.

Canada’s appetite for biodiesel, typically produced from animal fat, used cooking oil, soybeans or canola, is expected to soar.

A government mandate will require two-per-cent renewable content in all diesel fuel in 2011, though a start date has not yet been set. Canadian Renewable Fuels Association president Gordon Quaiattini said he expects an announcement on timing in the next few weeks.

Canada currently produces about 200 million litres of biodiesel annually, but will need about 550 million litres to meet government quotas.

Energy Innovation plans to make up to 10 million litres of biodiesel annually at its Toronto plant while it chases “monstrous markets” for animal and human feed.

It has rights to a process that uses 40 per cent of the flax seed for fuel, with the remainder turned into meal.

Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, the meal has lucrative markets as chicken, cattle, shrimp and fish feed, Dwyer said. Energy Innovation is also marketing a high-protein, gluten-free flax flour for human consumption.

The company, which has operated a 3.2-million litre capacity pilot plant in Port Colborne, Ont., since 2006, now has ambitious expansion plans.

Dwyer, who scraped together $60,000 to fund the company’s research and development, and has since raised more than $1 million, wants to open “a minimum” of eight more plants in the province over the next three years.

Biox Corp. is Canada’s biggest and only publicly traded biodiesel producer, with a 67-million-litre plant in Hamilton, Ont., that can process any feedstock. Biox has said it wants to build 10 similar plants in North America and Europe over the next decade.

Energy Innovation is planning for smaller facilities to ensure a secure supply of flax seed from local farmers.

Flax seed for the Toronto plant will come from a 1,200-acre farm owned by a major shareholder in the company.

“There isn’t a one-size-fits-all model,” said Quaiattini.

“What’s interesting about this technology and even the size of these plants … and the capital costs (is it makes them) very viable in not just Toronto, but in other parts of world as well.”

Energy Innovation is in contract talks with three customers for its Toronto plant, which will cost $2.5 million to build, Dwyer said. It has also held discussions with Metrolinx, the Toronto area’s public-transportation agency.

Canadian biodiesel producers export about 75 per cent of their fuel to the United States, which will use about three billion litres of the fuel in 2011, with demand seen rising to four billion litres by 2012, Quaiattini said.

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